England manager Gareth Southgate will name his first squad since the World Cup on Thursday with his commitment to developing young talent expected to continue.
The Three Lions reached the semi-finals in Russia despite heading into the tournament with a squad that had the fewest total caps of the 32 competing nations.
With a Wembley date with Spain in the inaugural UEFA Nations League and a friendly against Switzerland at the King Power Stadium, Southgate has plenty to ponder.
Two of the elder statesmen from those ranks effectively ended their international careers earlier in the week.
Both Chelsea defender Gary Cahill and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy announced that – barring an injury crisis – they would step back from playing for England as Southgate continues to build for the future.
That future will include the likes of Manchester City’s 18-year-old midfielder Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund, but Southgate may yet decide it is too early for the pair.
The same goes for Ryan Sessegnon but James Maddison – a player Southgate has openly admired – is pushing hard for a call-up after the midfielder’s fine start to life at Leicester.
Meanwhile, West Ham’s Declan Rice appears to be at the centre of a tussle for his services.
Rice, 19, has three non-competitive senior caps for the Republic of Ireland but was omitted from their latest squad as manager Martin O’Neill revealed the London-born defender was deliberating his international future – claiming England had been in touch with the player.
Manchester United’s early season struggles have been plain for all to see but left-back Luke Shaw has been impressive and could receive his first call-up since March 2017, while Liverpool defender Joe Gomez is likely to return after recovering from injury.
While there are a number of younger players on the cusp of making Southgate’s cut, some of the more experienced campaigners will be worried about their spots.
Ashley Young started five of England’s seven World Cup games but the 33-year-old may be overlooked this time around, especially if team-mate Shaw is given the nod.
Another United player, Phil Jones, started his first game of the season in Monday’s 3-0 defeat to Tottenham but limped off and is all-but certain to miss out, while Danny Welbeck has played just 19 minutes for Arsenal this campaign.
Jordan Pickford was the first-choice goalkeeper in Russia and the Everton man will keep his spot – but it remains to be seen which other stoppers will join him.
Jack Butland is now playing in the Championship with Stoke and Burnley’s Nick Pope is sidelined with a dislocated shoulder.
With Pope missing, Burnley boss Sean Dyche has Tom Heaton and Joe Hart to call on, both of whom will be pushing for an international recall, while Southampton’s Alex McCarthy is another option.
One thing that is for certain is that Southgate, who will want to extend the feel-good factor created by an unlikely run to the last-four in Russia, has more decisions to make than he would have initially expected after equalling England’s best performance in a World Cup on foreign soil.
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